Kentucky Derby Futures: Heavily Hyped Baffert Horses in the Spotlight

Fans cheer at Churchill Downs. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

One of the most exciting pit stops on the Road to the Triple Crown involves laying down some cash on a futures pick for the 2018 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Through April, America’s Best Racing will bring you up to date with the changing odds and notable entries at two of the main Kentucky Derby future wager bookmakers in Las Vegas – the books at Wynn Las Vegas and William Hill.

We’ll revisit these odds when new sheets are released (usually after a major prep race is completed). With each passing prep race, the number of viable Derby contenders will shrink, but as of now, there are literally hundreds of horses out there that carry the dreams of owners and gamblers alike to find the Churchill Downs winner’s circle somewhere around 7 p.m. ET on May 5 – and some of them may have not even raced yet.

Last weekend, Catholic Boy made his dirt debut in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct and won going away to earn 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. This weekend, another points race is on tap at Los Alamitos, the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity, featuring Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Solomini and the very highly regarded McKinzie, both trained by four-time Derby-winner Bob Baffert. Here’s the latest update on which horses Wynn Las Vegas favors as early prospects for the 144th run for the roses. (William Hill’s book has not been updated as of Dec. 7).

Dec. 8 Odds Leaders:


1. Bolt d’Oro (12-1)

2. Good Magic (14-1)

3. Enticed (20-1)

4. McKinzie (20-1)

5. Montauk (22-1)

Notable Changes:

Catholic Boy
Catholic Boy (Eclipse Sportswire)

Catholic Boy: Odds dove down to 30-1 from 150-1 on Nov. 27 after he romped in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen by 4 ¾ lengths, making a powerful move in the early stretch and drawing well clear of highly-regarded Avery Island. His sire, More Than Ready, usually gets runners who perform best at around a mile rather than the Kentucky Derby’s mile and a quarter distance, but this colt has yet to run a bad race in four starts (with his only loss a good fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) and deserves his spot among the top winter-book favorites. America’s Best Racing’s Mike Curry takes a closer look in his latest Making the Grade profile.

Alkhaatam: Re-enters the Wynn sheet at 60-1 odds after originally being offered at 150-1. He was the second betting choice in the Remsen to Avery Island, and finished fourth after being bumped and shuffled back at the start. This colt by leading sire Tapit has top-notch connections in owner-breeder Shadwell Stable and trainer Chad Brown and he’s got plenty of upside as he’s only made two starts (he finished a good third in his debut going a mile at Belmont Park on Oct. 25).

Vouch: A new entry in Wynn’s book after finishing third in the Remsen, this son of Yes It’s True is offered at 175-1 odds. He races for Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables (owner of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro) and Three Chimneys Farm, and won his debut at nearly 1 1/16 miles by an impressive 8 ¼ lengths at Laurel Park on Oct. 30 before running respectably in the Remsen. Yes It’s True is known primarily as a sire of sprinters and milers, but this colt’s dam (mother) is by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow and he is a full brother to Calamity Kate, who won the Delaware Oaks and ran second in the Cotillion Stakes in 2015, both two-turn races.

Four to Watch:

Vision: Made an eye-catching debut when winning a 5 ½-length maiden special weight at Los Alamitos on Nov. 30 to join McKinzie as one of Bob Baffert’s seemingly endless supply of talented 2-year-olds that he unveils each fall. He’s by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb and his dam Spring Awakening is a stakes winner who ran second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante back in 2007. This colt’s half-sister Walk Close won a graded stakes race on turf going 1 3/16 miles. In his debut, he was well back in fourth at the top of the stretch but angled in and closed strongly to win by 1 ¼ lengths under Mike Smith. Look for him to stretch out in his next start, which will likely be at Santa Anita Park in early 2018; as for now, he’s offered at odds of 125-1 by Wynn.

Runaway Ghost
Runaway Ghost (BENOIT photo)

Runaway Ghost: This son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper finished second by a head in his debut back in May, won his next start on June 1 at Santa Anita, and then did not return until Nov. 11 in the six-furlong Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. Racing on Golden Gate’s synthetic main track, he scored easily by 7 ½ lengths as the pacesetter. Now, he’s been added to Wynn’s book at odds of 50-1 in advance of major test in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity, where he will face Solomini and McKinzie along with two others (see below). This will be his first start going two turns, and his dam Rose’s Desert was a sprinter on the New Mexico circuit, albeit one who won 10 of 15 races, including seven stakes. That being said, Equibase handicapper Ellis Star thinks this colt could spring the upset in the Cash Call Futurity – click here for his analysis.

Coltandmississippi: This Todd Pletcher-trained colt won his first career start going seven-eighths of a mile, which is not easy to do. That happened in mid-August at Saratoga, which led to a start in the one-mile Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sept. 2. In that race, he was bumped leaving the gate and was rank (hard to control) early, and ended up finishing last of 10. Given six weeks off, he resurfaced in Florida in a seven-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park West and won going away by six lengths. Now, he’s set to run in Saturday’s Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a one-turn mile race. He’s currently offered at 200-1 odds by Wynn and will join fellow Pletcher trainee Bal Harbour (who won the Sapling Stakes and is offered at 175-1 odds by Wynn) in the starting gate. This colt’s sire is Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. His dam, on the other hand, is a stakes-winning sprinter who performed best on dirt and synthetic tracks.

Regulate: This colt with a stellar pedigree and connections (yes, he’s yet another Bob Baffert bullet) was profiled in last week’s Kentucky Derby Futures blog and was scheduled to make his first career start on Dec. 8 at Los Alamitos before racing was cancelled for the day. He’s offered at 75-1 odds by Wynn.

Upcoming Derby Prep:

Saturday’s $300,00 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity only drew five starters, but it should be a very competitive event due to the horses mentioned above and will set expectations for the West Coast Kentucky Derby contenders in advance of the new year and the opening of Santa Anita’s race meet. Post time is set for 4:28 p.m. ET. Here are Wynn’s future odds for the field in post-position order:

1. Instilled Regard (125-1)

2. For Him (225-1)

3. Solomini (30-1)

4. Runaway Ghost (50-1)

5. McKinzie (20-1)

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